Title: Skill for Trade
Disclaimer: I own nothing that sprang from the mind of Stephen Sondheim et all. And I make no profit.
Continuity: Comes before "Not While I'm Around".
Summary: "That's no way to learn," Sweeney bared his throat to the boy.
Completed: January 24, 2008
Notes: I've been a Sweeney fan long before Johnny picked the razors, but it was Helena that inspired me to pick up my pen.
I know, this is just as bad as mentioning curtains in a fiction about Sirius Black. But I had to get this scene out of my head.
The bell above the door jingled.
Sweeney Todd's right hand tingled. It had been a slow day and he twitched for a new customer. The razors on the bureau sang for one. The hunger needed to be fed. But when Mr. Todd turned he found the boy, Toby, standing in the threshold.
He raised an eyebrow at the lad, disappointed.
"Mrs. Lovett sent me up sir," Toby explained himself, "she's busy in the bake house, and with no customers today she sent me up to help you."
'Best way to hide the truth,' his eyes fell on the trap door under the barber's chair, than darted back up to the child, 'and keep him out of the gin.'
Mr. Todd nodded, and Toby stepped the rest of the way into the shop. The door closed with a shudder, leaving only the silence between them. The pair had never spent any time together that didn't have Mrs. Lovett fretting over them. It was empty without her. Uncomfortable. Strange.
And from the way the boy's hands shook, he didn't much like the idea of being alone with the barber up in his shop. Not that Mr. Todd was comfortable with the boy being there either. Too many questions.
Toby darted his eyes around the small room, careful not to spend too much time on any one object, and extra careful not to stare at Mr. Todd at all. He couldn't understand why the man choose to hold up there in the dark and draft while the fireplace was always burning in Mrs. Lovett's parole. Somehow the warm sunlight always managed to shine there, but avoided this place. It was cold and lonely here. Haunted and drab.
A chill ran up Toby's spine.
"You know how to give a shave?" the question came out suddenly in the stillness.
"Pirelli never taught me sir," Toby shook his head.
The barber nodded again. He'd have to show him. Every boy needs a skilled trade, but with no fresh faces to experiment on, Sweeney only had himself. He moved to the vanity where the suds were sitting unused and going to waste. He whipped up the froth and began to lather his face in the mirror.
Silently, Toby followed to stand beside him. Watching and studying the skill that was being shown to him.
He mimicked every motion he witnessed in the dingy reflection, and followed the few dry, grunted directions that were offered.
As Toby pulled his cheek taunt and swept his finger over the skin as if it were a razor, Todd knew this was no way for the lad to practice the skill. He needed to know the weight of the razor. Needed to know the point of the blade.
"Wait," he pulled a small crate from the corner of the shop, "that's no way for you to learn." Laying his own trusted razor down, he opened the heavy oak box and pulled out one of the small, lesser-used blades from its resting-place.
"Careful with the blade," Sweeney handed the heavy silver handle over to the boy.
The quivering that had racked his small hand stopped, and he cradled the handle as if it were a perfect fit. Expertly, he flicked it open, the silver catching the scant rays of light, and inspected the smooth, flawless surface. It was beautiful.
Curious. Sweeney felt a sense of loss at seeing his friend fit so perfectly into the palm of another. He was sure they only had a purpose for him.
"Now," Sweeney took a seat on the crate, crossing his arms over his chest, "as I've shown you." There was still soap lather covering one cheek and down his neck.
Toby took the step closer, and with quiet concentration pressed the blade against Todd's cheek. He flicked his wrist, scraping away the suds and stubble. Smooth. Clean.
"Quick and careful son," was the only direction Sweeney gave as he tilted his head back and bared his throat for the boy.
Toby tilted his head to the side and aligned the blade close to Mr. Todd's pulse.
His heart stopped. But he could still hear the blood rushing in his ears. He knew what could happen if he slipped once. He looked up from the blade and into the black eyes of the barber. Something flickered between them. A flash of scarlet. A burning flash of scarlet. Power.
Narrowing his eyes, Toby gave another expert swipe of the razor, finishing the shave. Clean. Unmarred.
He let the hand holding the razor fall limply to his side, suds still sliding off the smooth silver. Sweeney just stared back at him. Curious.
"Nice to see my boys getting on so well," Mrs. Lovett spoke from the door, neither had heard her come in.
Toby let the razor clank to the floor as he rushed to her side. He clung to her skirts as if he'd been scolded.
"What's the matter darlin'? Seems to me you did a wonderful job on Mr. Todd," she affectionately stroked the boy's hair, giving him her beaming smile.
His face was white as death; "Can I go back downstairs now mum?"
She nodded, "Yes, we best get supper on eh?"
Toby nodded. And with that the boy ran down to the stairs to the pie shop as fast as he could.
Sweeney wiped the remaining soap from his face with a rag, but made no effort to look back at the door. He couldn't look back at them. Refused to.
Mrs. Lovett stepped up behind him, becoming a blurred shadow in the mirror. "Coming for dinner luv?"
"Yes, yes," he offered his usual absentminded response. Waving her off to leave him with his thoughts. New thoughts, dark thoughts. Curious thoughts.
"He did such a fine job wielding your blade," Mrs. Lovett ghosted her fingers down Mr. Todd's cheek. Her fingertips feeling callused in comparison to the freshly shaven skin. Feeling cold against the flush from the razor.
Todd's own hand stroked down his throat, feeling the smooth skin and jump of his pulse. "Yes… yes he did."